The Selfie President: Progressive or Disrespectful?

Who could forget the most famous – or, rather, infamous – moment of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in December of 2014? President Barack Obama sat shoulder-to-shoulder with blonde beauty and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt while British Prime Minister David Cameron buddied up to her other side as the trio took what can only be described as a wildly inappropriate selfie (moments later, Michelle forced Barack to switch seats with her; the pictorial record of the service is a bit amusing while simultaneously depressing). Yes, it’s hard to forget the moment our nation’s Commander-in-Chief firmly branded himself as not only the Selfie President but also as an immature one, for can one be mature when one takes cheesy-grin selfies at a memorial service?

But wait, you say, those events were months ago, why stir it up yet again now? Because it wasn’t the first time, just the most ill-timed, and because he’s at it again, and in bigger, bolder splashes. In fact, not only is Barack Obama at it, but so is his wife. It may be the social media age, there’s certainly no denying it, but that doesn’t mean all decorum should vanish from the highest office in the nation. It doesn’t mean basic manners and respect at a memorial service can be tossed aside for the apparent fun of hamming it up with the hot blonde in the seat next to you, and it doesn’t mean what should be an all-encompassing job should be shelved for the joys of making BuzzFeed videos.

Obama’s face has been popping up in my Facebook newsfeed with increasing regularity, and not because I subscribe to news sites (I don’t). No, his grin frequently graces my computer monitor, tablet screen, and cell phone because he’s taking part in skits and other social media fun on a basis that can only be described as rampant. Some say the Obamas are making an attempt to get in touch with the younger voting base, but it seems far more likely they’re doing what they’ve done best for years: having fun in a position of power designed for serious work, not frivolity.

When the healthcare-related Buzzfeed video went viral, it wasn’t a surprise, but it was disappointing. Obama’s healthcare plans aren’t worth laying out at this moment; suffice to say even past supporters are finally beginning to see the negative light. With record low enrollment numbers and seriously flagging support, Obama apparently decided the way to go was to team up with BuzzFeed, an online social media site dedicated to entertaining the younger masses. BuzzFeed is home to such gems as male staffers learning to do a strip-tease, supposed-to-be-educational FAQ President Obama on Lettermansessions with transsexuals and fans of BDSM, and clips of people talking about certain sexual antics that would be far too much information within the body of this article. That’s not to say BuzzFeed never has anything entertaining, because they do; that’s what they are, after all: entertainment. Titillation. A place 20 and 30-somethings go to see the “other” side of certain taboo behaviors while simultaneously watching an adorable toddler dance with mind-blowing talent. It’s an interesting mix, and one serving the site well, but it is absolutely not the place for the President of the United States.

If you haven’t seen the video, you can reach a link here. In the two-minute video, Obama stands in front of a mirror making faces, sticking out his tongue, and shooting finger guns before making his way to his office, where he mumbles “thanks Obama” when a massive cookie fails to fit in a glass of milk. President Obama then begins to play air basketball when a BuzzFeed staffer, who is also featured throughout the video, enters the office and catches the President. Obama shouts out a “YOLO!” and just the like that, the way the Obamas seem to treat the presidency is summed up in just one slang term. You Only Live Once and the Obamas are taking it to heart by milking the presidency for every tiny bit of fame – and vacation money – its worth.

There’s more, of course. Obama’s YouTube “interviews” with multiple YouTube personalities including the green lipstick-wearing GloZell – yes, the woman who ate Froot Loops from a bathtub – was yet another sterling social media moment (If you’d like to watch a wild-eyed grown woman wearing a low-cut bathing suit and a neon headband climb into a bathtub of milky water and eat cereal by diving face-first into the concoction, more power to you, and here’s the link). Obama’s “interview” with GloZell starts with a hug and scripted compliments regarding the painting of GloZell hanging on the prop wall, which GloZell tells the President was painted by her husband (One would assume this is the same husband who was apparently naked during the Froot Loops video). GloZell apparently gave Obama a tube of her signature sparkly green lipstick to take home to Michelle. Then there was Obama’s appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, where he did a presidential version of the popular skit where celebrities read mean tweets about themselves. The tweets chosen for Obama were decidedly not mean, by the way. It would be easy to go on, but let’s move along.

Michelle Obama isn’t one to be left out. Her most recent appearance was made on Ellen, where she joked around with the show’s hostess in a manner expected of an actress or singer but not the First Lady. She ended her time by getting up and dancing to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” which was choreographed not only for dance steps but for what was supposed to be an endearing mic-drop moment – literally.  While some viewers find this fantastic, believing it proves Michelle is “one of us” and enjoys “getting down” and having fun – heck, this was picked up by Time, People, and pretty much every other celeb-geared media outlet on earth – it seems to be nothing more than another carefree moment of faux celebrity courtesy by the White House while we’re a nation still at war. Who among us can visualize Nancy Reagan boogieing on national television while our young men and women give their lives in defense of this country on foreign soil?

Here we come to the crux of the matter, and while there are examples aplenty of both Obama’s forays into social media, you get the general idea. Is it appropriate for the President and First Lady to be making countless appearances on talk shows, late-night shows, YouTube, BuzzFeed, and other social media outlets? Would it be appropriate if we were not still deeply entrenched in the war on terror? Would it somehow be less offensive if our loved ones weren’t shedding their blood and giving life and limb in service to our country while the President and his wife greedily gather all the fame they can scrape together in eight years?

Those of us who disagree with these social media forays and dare to speak out tend to be looked upon as old-fashioned, out-of-touch fuddy-duddies. We’re seen as the spoilsports, the narrators raining on the presidential parade, the wet blankets. Considering I, myself, am significantly younger than the Obamas, it isn’t often those terms are applied to me, and if my stance on this issue Selfie Side 2dunks me into the dreaded boring tank of tsk-tsk dullness, well, so be it. Even if we were not a nation at war, their behavior would be inappropriate. It is not in the nature of the presidency to seek out the limelight, to hope for stardom, let alone to bolt after it like a dog after a particularly meaty bone. They are, after all, the first in the White House to behave in such an obscene manner.

While former President George W. Bush may not have been perfect – he was, after all, human – he strove to uphold the respect and traditions of the Oval Office. On one occasion he was cajoled into being photographed in the Oval Office wearing a pair of what were, at the time, considered “cool” sunglasses. He’d apparently been unsure of going along with it at the time the pictures were taken, and after they were taken he decided he should have trusted his gut all along. A White House staffer destroyed the negatives, and the respect Bush felt due the office was upheld. Just think, our last president thought being shown wearing sunglasses in the Oval Office was disrespectful. Our current president thinks using a selfie stick in his office is not just all right but cool and believes taking selfies at a memorial service is not only appropriate but right. The defenders of Obama’s selfie moment at Mandela’s service were outspoken and adamant Barack had done nothing whatsoever wrong. That is what our nation has come to. Selfies at a memorial for a dead man, and one known the world over, to boot. Defenders of all ages who, themselves, have no more respect for the dead and the Oval Office than they do for a booth in the back of the local McDonald’s.

It would be nice to think this behavior will eventually cease, but it’s only increased over time. Just when it seems it cannot possibly go further, surprise, it does. How comforting is it to the families of lost soldiers to see the Commander-in-Chief goofing off on YouTube as their loved ones are laid to rest? What message does it send to foreign nations? Does it relay the message of America as the world’s greatest superpower? Or does it send the message of America as a nation of fools and slackers?

Truthfully it saddens me to watch the behavior being perpetuated by the Obamas. My sadness is borne not only of military ties but from my heart as a proud American: this is not our nation, I want to tell those on the outside looking in. This is not the way I behave; this is not the way we behave. We are a nation built on hard work and the kind of freedoms not enjoyed by many, and we are grateful for those prizes. We are a nation of fighters, a nation stocked with soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines willing to lay down their lives in its defense. We are Americans, and this behavior should be beneath us. It is not a matter of being a stick-in-the-mud or a goody-two-shoes, it is a matter of having respect not only for the blood that has been shed throughout this nation’s history but self-respect. Respect for the flag. Respect for the Declaration of Independence, for the Constitution. Respect for America, because she remains great, at least for the time being.

We are a nation with a Selfie President. We are becoming a mockery; the embarrassing cousin. It is past time we returned to the pride and respect of decades past. Past time we admitted we’re on a slippery slope, and we aren’t doing much to stop the rapid descent.

America the beautiful, America the great…for how much longer?

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine is a military and political journalist with a reputation for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred articles. Her career as a writer has immersed her in the military lifestyle and given her unique insights into the various branches of service. She is a firearms aficionado and has years of experience as a K9 SAR handler, and has volunteered with multiple support-our-troops charities for more than a decade. Katherine is passionate about military issues and feels supporting service members should be the top priority for all Americans. Her areas of expertise include the military, politics, history, firearms and canine issues.
Katherine Ainsworth
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